Darius Boyd Now A 'Statesman Of The Game'
Two years after his career threatened to be torn apart by the personal turmoil he had endured since a teenager, Darius Boyd has been referred to as a "statesman of the game" by one of rugby league's most respected figures.
Historian and statistician David Middleton has charted every aspect of rugby league over the 30 years of his Rugby League Annual publication and has named Boyd as one of his top five players of 2016.
He shares the plaudits with Cowboys back-rower Jason Taumalolo, Storm skipper Cameron Smith, Canberra hooker Josh Hodgson and Sharks five-eighth James Maloney but as far as Middleton is concerned, 2016 will be remembered as the year in which Boyd really came of age.
Almost certain to be named captain of the Brisbane Broncos for the 2017 season, Boyd's transformation of personal development has been nothing short of extraordinary.
Once a recalcitrant figure who regularly treated the media with contempt, Boyd is now one of the most engaging and insightful interviews in the game and his on-field progression has matched that which he has experienced off the field.
He displaced Greg Inglis to wear the No.1 jersey for Queensland for the first time in an Origin match this year and is the incumbent Kangaroos custodian having played all five Tests in 2016 at fullback, at the same time keeping his incredible record of 16 Tests without defeat intact.
Taumalolo and Cooper Cronk may have shared the Dally M Medal as the game's best players in 2016 but Middleton is in no doubt that it was a defining year for the 29-year-old Boyd.
"I don't know if there was one absolute standout but Darius Boyd was one of my top five and he was one of my 'go-to' players for top five of the year," Middleton told NRL.com.
"Taumalolo was certainly well recognised with Dally Ms and RLPA awards so he was a standout as well but I thought Darius had the best season of his career.
"The fact that he's worked so hard to overcome the issues that had plagued him for so much of his career and still managed to achieve so much with all that going on in the past is testament to his ability.
"But the fact that he is now beyond that, he looks like becoming the Broncos leader and he has become a real statesman of the game."
Boyd's battle with a difficult upbringing and associated mental health issues came to a head when he had yet another awkward interaction with a journalist in the wake of Game Three of the 2014 Origin Series.
Shortly thereafter he checked himself into a mental health clinic in the New South Wales Hunter Valley and didn't play another game for the Knights.
He returned to Brisbane a changed man who in September told NRL.com upon receiving the Paul Morgan Medal as Brisbane's best for 2016 that he is now ready for the responsibility of captaining such a proud club, a feat he achieved in Round 19 this year.
"I don't know if I'll ever feel fully comfortable but if I did get it, it would be a massive honour," Boyd said of the prospect of captaincy.
"I'm doing all the right things on the field and off the field but I don't know if I'll ever be 'ready ready'.
"When I captained the team one time Wayne [Bennett, Brisbane coach] didn't ask me he just told me and I didn't really know how to take it.
"It was after an Origin game and I did find myself trying to play a bit better and lead the team around I suppose as a captain is meant to do."
Middleton believes that the personal journey Boyd has travelled adds even greater weight to the position in the game which he now occupies.
"It's impossible for anyone to understand what he went through for so many years and carried it all on his shoulders," Middleton said.
"Everyone said that he had a giant chip on his shoulder; he probably did! But he worked at it and he got the help that he needed and he was man enough to ask for help.
"A lot of people don't do what he did and they battle on and suffer for it right through their lives. He's made a real positive step."
This article first appeared on NRL.com